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J. E. Ellington, B. A. Ball, and X. Yang

The objective of this study was to determine whether coculture of stallion spermatozoa and mare oviductal (uterine tubal) epithelial cells induced sperm cell capacitation in vitro. Capacitation as determined by zona binding and chlortetracycline staining of the sperm cells was compared for stallion spermatozoa: (1) incubated with medium alone (negative control), (2) treated with calcium ionophore A23187 (positive control) or (3) cultured with mare oviductal epithelial cells (OEC) for 4 h. Chlortetracycline staining patterns of sperm cells bound to the zonae were used to group spermatozoa as uncapacitated, capacitated or acrosome reacted. The zonae and attached spermatozoa were stained for evaluation after initial binding (pulse) and after 1 h of co-incubation (chase). More sperm cells in the ionophore and OEC treatments bound to the zonae at both the pulse and chase than in control medium (P < 0.001). More bound sperm cells were capacitated at the pulse, and acrosome reacted at the chase, for the ionophore and co-culture groups than for the controls (P < 0.001). Staining patterns for sperm cells not bound to the zona pellucida in each of the treatments differed (P < 0.05) from the population of sperm cells that bound to the zona pellucida. There was a higher percentage of capacitated spermatozoa and a lower percentage of acrosome-reacted spermatozoa bound to the zonae at the pulse than were represented in the treatment suspensions of sperm cells. The co-culture treatment resulted in a higher (P < 0.05) proportion of sperm cells in suspension with the capacitated staining pattern and a lower (P < 0.05) proportion with the uncapacitated pattern than those in the ionophore treatment.

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J. E. Ellington, P. B. Farrell, M. E. Simkin, R. H. Foote, E. E. Goldman, and A. B. McGrath

Summary. This study compares development of bovine 1–2-cell embryos in bovine oviduct epithelial cell co-culture (Group EC) with a glucose- and serum-free simple medium (CZB), or after surgical transfer to ligated oviducts of rabbits (Group RO). Embryos were surgically collected from superovulated donor cows 40–48 h after the beginning of oestrus and randomly distributed between the two groups. Embryos were cultured or incubated for 5 days. In Exp. 1, embryo quality scores and total numbers of cells in the two groups were compared. In Exp. 2, pairs of similarly treated morulae were transferred to each of 10 or 12 recipients in the Groups RO and EC, respectively. Total cell counts per embryo in both groups averaged 52 (P > 0·05), and the in-vitro culture system was equivalent to the rabbit oviducts in promoting embryo development for all characteristics measured. Embryo survival, as determined by ultrasound between Days 39 and 43 after oestrus, in 13 ideal recipients was 57% for embryos in Group EC and 58% for embryos Group RO. None of the 9 less desirable recipients was pregnant for either group. These results establish that cattle zygotes can develop to morulae in culture with bovine oviduct epithelial cells in a simple medium and can produce normal pregnancy rates.

Keywords: cattle; zygote; co-culture; embryo transfer; pregnancy

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S. P. Brinsko, B. A. Ball, P. G. Miller, P. G. A. Thomas, and J. E. Ellington

This study was designed to investigate the development of day 2 embryos obtained from young and aged mares, co-cultured with oviductal epithelial cells obtained from mares in each age group in a 2 × 2 crossover design. Young, fertile mares (n = 19; 2–7 years of age) and aged, subfertile, mares (n = 16; 17–24 years of age) were used as embryo and oviductal epithelial cell donors. Embryos (n = 37) were collected from the oviducts 2 days after ovulation and were paired (embryos obtained from young mares with embryos obtained from aged mares) so that eight pairs were co-cultured with young mare oviductal epithelial cells and eight pairs were co-cultured with aged mare oviductal epithelial cells. Five additional embryos obtained from young mares were co-cultured with oviductal epithelial cells from either young mares or aged mares but were not paired. Embryos were co-cultured for 7 days at 38.5°C in 5% CO2 or until morphological degeneration was detected. The proportions of paired embryos that reached the blastocyst stage were similar for embryos obtained from young mares and embryos obtained from aged mares after co-culture with oviductal epithelial cells from young mares (6 of 8 versus 5 of 8) or from aged mares (6 of 8 versus 5 of 8), respectively. Although the overall rate of development of embryos to blastocyst from both young mares and aged mares was similar, blastocysts developing from embryos obtained from aged mares were inferior to blastocysts obtained from young mares in terms of number of cell nuclei, quality score, and diameter at day 7. The results of this experiment indicate that the high rate of early embryonic loss in aged, subfertile mares may be due to inherent developmental defects in their embryos, but does not appear related to the ability of embryos from aged, subfertile mares to reach the blastocyst stage.